A Cork man is making the career leap from financial services to furry friends and hoping his high-end hotel for cats will prove a hit.
John Rearden was already living in rural Donoughmore with wife Tania, four children, two dogs, two cats and six horses.
Both parents found themselves facing redundancy from their long-term roles with Irish banks a couple of years ago but whereas Tania quickly established herself in a new role with Apple, John decided to consider his options and their family circumstances.
“I left the bank and the main thing for me was to be able to work at home to facilitate a young family,” he told the Evening Echo.
“The business plan is built around fitting in with that, not to replace a full time office job.” When it came to building a business he had a headstart, with an existing stables and room for expansion alongside their home: “The land has been in my family for generations. We have a stables and an arena and we have been developing it along the way.”
Doing livery with horses wasn’t an option for safety and space reasons so it was either dogs or cats.
“I have always had an affinity for animals so it was making use of the space. Someone gave me the idea of cats and I researched it.”
He found that we Irish are growing ever more fond of cats.
“The cat population in Ireland has trebled and the household cat is now on a par with the dog. I know there is a vast array of dog kennels out there so I thought this was an opening and researched the high end market. I could only find a comparable one in Dublin but we based it more on what we saw in American books and various websites for the UK luxury end.”
Any cat owner will tell you felines and luxurious living go hand in hand, so what is John offering at Cedar Lodge Cattery?
“We are offering a lot of space and a clear view out. There are no cats overlooking each other, which they hate because they are quite territorial.
We have a corridor with a long conservatory window so they have uninterrupted views of the horses in the paddock out the back.
“The size of the units is better for them and we have multiple bedding and viewing areas and posts. The hammocks are an extra feature, they like to be up high looking down.” John has also installed air vents and security doors to maximise the cats’ comfort and safety and the heating system he put in is specifically designed for cats. Vets who John knows through the horses have looked at the facility and approved what they have done.
They have had huge interest on Facebook from cat lovers and welcomed their first feline visitors in March.
John describes it as a ‘dramatic change’ from his old life in financial services.
“There are pros and cons. The job that I did, I couldn’t say I loved it because a lot of the time I was chasing struggling customers with difficult financial circumstances. That wasn’t the nicest but you would bring your personality to it and try and be as nice as possible. What I do miss is the office atmosphere. There was a lot of us working together and you did bounce things off each other, colleagues were very important in the stressful times.” Working from home is far from the rest office-based workers may imagine “Now I have less time, people think they can drop in for a coffee and I say are you joking me?! It is very busy.
“The building of the cattery has taken over because I have done a lot of it, everything has been direct labour. Idid a lot of the labouring and carpentry, I am now fitting shelves and things like that. That has taken a lot of time.” But all the labour, research and struggle is more than worth it for John to be home with his children, currently aged between seven and 12.
“We had au pairs and childminders and creches for nine years, because we had four young children and one person couldn’t do the whole lot.” Since John has been around full time: “homework and school work has improved a lot.” Tania is also heavily involved in the cattery, pitching in in the mornings and at weekends.
As John puts the finishing touches on Cedar Lodge Cattery, he hopes that all the work will pay off: “Here’s hoping the effort and investment will prove to be the right decision!”